News / Africa

Dire Situations in CAR, DRC Overshadowed by Syria

FILE - Refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) wait at the Busunga border in western Uganda, July 13, 2013.
FILE - Refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) wait at the Busunga border in western Uganda, July 13, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
A senior U.N. official says the dire humanitarian situations in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo are being overshadowed by the crisis in Syria.  The official was part of an assessment mission to both African countries by the directors of emergencies for seven major U.N. agencies and two private organizations. 

The emergencies directors, who visited the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo between October 17 and 24, say they are concerned by the growing humanitarian crises in the two countries.

They note humanitarian requirements have nearly tripled in the CAR following a March coup by Seleka rebels.  And, they say there has been a rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the DRC this year, with upsurges in conflict, violence and displacement.

Emergencies Director of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Ted Chaiban, says no one questions the need to support the millions of victims of Syria’s conflict.  At the same time, he says the mission is beginning to see how funding for Syria is impacting other crises. 

For example, while the mission was in the DRC, he says it became clear the World Food Program had very limited resources left for its program in central Africa.

“We work together as a family and if the World Food Program does not have financing for its program, then the rest of what we do in terms of malnutrition, treatment of severe malnutrition -  working together on moderate and acute malnutrition - is not going to make a difference.  So we were quite concerned and, I think they believe that this is a clear consequence of significant amount of resources going to Syria,” he said. 

Chaiban says WFP’s $478 million appeal for the DRC is only 15 percent funded.  He says agencies including UNICEF, the U.N. refugee agency, and the World Health Organization also are feeling the financial pinch. 

And this is affecting their ability to assist millions of DRC residents who have been suffering from nearly two decades of war.  Some 2.5 million people are internally displaced in the country.  Tens of thousands are victims of rape and sexual violence, many of them children.  UNICEF reports the DRC is also affected by a chronic nutrition and health crisis.

UNICEF’s Chaiban says the situation in the CAR is possibly even more problematic.  He says virtually the whole population of 4.6 million people is hit by violence and lawlessness in the country.  He says 1.6 million are estimated to be in dire need of food, protection, health care, water and sanitation and shelter.

“The situation is fragile, but it could even get worse," he said.  "When we were there we saw some communal tension and confrontation in a town called Bossangoa, which we went to and these tensions are developing in many parts of CAR.  And, it is very clear that there needs to be attention and quick support both in terms of political transition, but also in terms of the work that can be done to support stabilizing the situation as well as working on the humanitarian situation in order to avoid the worst.” 

Chaiban says thus far, only 39 percent of the $195 million needed in the CAR until the end of the year has been provided.

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